The Path of a Pathogen

Newsweek - - Horizons -

More than 200 mil­lion peo­ple are in­fected with malaria ev­ery year, and a new dis­cov­ery has il­lu­mi­nated the evo­lu­tion of Plas­mod­ium fal­ci­parum—the dead­li­est of the par­a­sites car­ry­ing the disease. Re­searchers in the U.K., France and Gabon teamed up to cre­ate an an­ces­tral tree for the fam­ily of malaria par­a­sites that in­cludes P. fal­ci­parum, the only mem­ber that in­fects hu­mans. By se­quenc­ing and an­a­lyz­ing the genomes of th­ese sin­gle-celled or­gan­isms, the team pin­pointed ex­actly when P. fal­ci­parum jumped be­yond chim­panzees and go­ril­las. Re­port­ing in Na­ture Mi­cro­bi­ol­ogy, the re­searchers be­lieve the par­a­site emerged 0,000 years ago, de­vel­op­ing itšs hu­man-speciɿc form only ,000 or ,000 years ago. 7hey also iden­tiɿed the sin­gle clus­ter of genes that en­abled P. fal­ci­parum to make that leap—a crit­i­cal dis­cov­ery that could help end the scourge of malaria.

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